Ignore your customers at your own peril

I’ve been in the UX/design/product biz long enough to know it’s your ass if you don’t listen to your customers.

I’ve also been in the biz long enough to know that sometimes you think you’re going to lose your mind because: your customers tell you they know exactly what they want, or they don’t know what they want until they see/use it (stakeholders too), or they tell you what they think they want and then decide no, that’s not what they wanted. Regardless, no matter how stir crazy you may feel, it’s important to continue Listening. Not hearing, but listening. Taking an active, empathetic mindset.

The benefits of this are a thousand fold and are tried-and-true tested. You take care of your customers, and they will, in turn, take care of you. It’s a reciprocal trust that generates brand loyalty to the nth degree. But once you stop listening, and maybe instead pretend you know what’s best, you’ve broken trust, and it’s open season on your brand/product/experience. Your customers will no longer take care of you as much as they once did. You might even lose a few. And we all know it costs more to get new customers than it does to retain the ones you have.

And here’s the thing. I’ve seen this happen So Many Times you’d think that someone would have figured it out. Maybe someone has and I missed that story. But honestly, businesses do a great job of not reading the room.

Your customers are your tribe; a family of fiercely loyal and protective users, but so long as you continue to bring them joy. Failure to admit you got it wrong, while insisting that you got it right, is a one-way ticket to shit-island.

Failure to bring joy comes in many forms, such as a poor update or feature release or less than satisfactory components used in an upgrade. You name it, you’ve likely experienced it yourself. One of the most common howl-worthy scenarios in the digitalsphere is the “brand refresh” or a “system upgrade.” In an attempt to make things “better” e.g., more transparent, stylish, findable, easier to use, less quirky etc something crucial to the experience inevitably gets touched, modified, moved, or tweaked and your tribe loses its mind. Why? We are creatures of habit, and we don’t like being forced to spend time relearning something that to us worked “perfectly fine” and now it’s changed and crap, now I have to think, and not only that I’m really disappointed, and worse part is the company doesn’t seem to care. WTH?

Case in point:
Tesla recently updated its dashboard UI (badly) and it REALLY pissed off the Teslaholics.

(Updates are a Big Thing in the Tesla community. Kind of like when Apple used to release a completely new product once in awhile–iPhone, iPad anyone? It’s pretty damn exciting.)

Anyway, in the case of Tesla, it didn’t help that Elon Musk poo-poohed the whole thing. Especially when UI/UX designer Hans van de Bruggen designed and built a working prototype that solved the pain points, published it for feedback, and the Tesla owners who used it clamored forTesla to use it. Elon Musk in this case not only didn’t listen to his customers, he insisted he knew what they wanted. (Which proves that just because you have more money than 3/4 of America doesn’t mean shit if you treat your tribe like the human equivalent of toilet paper. )

Considering how much a Tesla costs and the investment it requires, I’d be seriously rapid too. I might even be thinking about the other EV that are coming on the market. Remember the tribe has a long memory.

Read on about Hans van de Bruggen in two posts where he dissects the Tesla update, and recounts his Elon vs. Hans and the internet. Can’t wait to hear more about this saga.